5 Reasons Why Mario Chalmers Is Right Fit for Miami Heat

Ethan SkolnickNBA Senior WriterApril 1, 2013

5 Reasons Why Mario Chalmers Is Right Fit for Miami Heat

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    When will Mario Chalmers earn some respect for what he is: the right fit for this particular Miami Heat team?

    That's a question that seemed appropriate to ask this week, in light of Ray Felton's comments about him to ESPNNewYork.com.

    Felton told the website:

    I'm not saying that's a weak point [for the Heat] because Chalmers has been great for Miami. He's won a championship there and he's a solid point guard. But I think that's one of the weaknesses of their team. Not saying that Chalmers is a bad player, because he's not. He's great. He's won a championship. A lot of point guards in this league can't say that. He has that. But if you look at LeBron, Bosh and D-Wade and then you look at Chalmers, you're like, 'OK, this is maybe where their weakness is at.'

    Chalmers had already seen the article, via Twitter, when a reporter approached. First, the Miami Heat point guard said that it showed that "I don't think I've got everyone's respect. I'm still working on that. But everyone's entitled to how they feel." 

    So, then the question.

    What will it take?

    Who knows? Who knows? I mean, people are going to say whatever. The only thing that matters to me is I’ve got my teammates’ respect, my coaches’ respect, and I know what I can do.

    Chalmers said he knew Felton "pretty well," adding, “I”m a little shocked about that comment.”

    This might shock Felton and others...but you can easily find five reasons why Chalmers has carved out an important niche on a defending champion.

    All quotes for this piece were collected during the course of the author's coverage of the Miami Heat for the Palm Beach Post. All statistics were accurate as of Monday afternoon.

5. The Price Is Right

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    As a restricted free agent in the summer of 2011, Mario Chalmers looked around the league. 

    Still, no one in the Miami Heat organization ever truly believed he was leaving.

    Even as he had been yanked in and out of the starting lineup over his first three seasons, Chalmers had developed relationships with many in Miami—including his oft-critical star teammates—and had generally proven worthy of the guaranteed commitment the Heat gave him after selecting him in the second round in 2008.

    Also, Heat officials knew something else—he was probably worth more to them, because of the way he fit as a combination guard, than to most other teams. 

    On the night before agreeing to a three-season, $12 million deal, Chalmers tweeted this:

    "Imma MIAMI HEAT player until they don’t want me no more. Let’s get this ring" 

    They did that in 2011-12, and his contract, in retrospect, looks like a fair deal. 

    On a team with a top-heavy salary chart, with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh earning a combined $52 million, you need a few competent players to take a little less. That's especially true considering the luxury tax implications facing Heat owner Micky Arison in the future. 

    A guy making $4 million—out of the $83 million in total team salary—who is third-best on the team with a plus-527 for the season?

    Most teams would take that every time. 

4. The Hands Are Quick

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    Erik Spoelstra calls Mario Chalmers "the head of the snake" for the Miami Heat on defense.

    And so, early in the season, when Chalmers was regularly allowing his assignment to beat him into the paint, it sometimes seemed like the Heat coach wanted to bite his head off.

    In fact, when asked about Chalmers's foul trouble back in early December, Spoelstra deviated from his normal reluctance toward criticizing individual players: “Everything that we’ve talked about. Early, stance, feet first, awareness, alertness, sense of urgency, discipline."

    Over the course of the season, however, Chalmers has done a much better job on the ball. And he has continued to be a disruptive force in the passing lanes, with his darting hands leading to 111 steals, third on the team behind LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. 

    And there's a statistic in which he tops both of them—and every other Heat regular.

    Overall, Chalmers has posted a 98.2 defensive efficiency rating per 100 possessions.

    With lower being better, that compares favorably to James (99.5), Wade (99.3), Udonis Haslem (98.5), Shane Battier (100.4) and especially his backup Norris Cole (103.4), who is generally regarded as the more dogged defender.

    That seems like a guy who, over time, has shown plenty of awareness, alertness, urgency and discipline. 

3. The Skin Is Thick

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    Before the 2012-13 season, with his place as a starting championship point guard secure, Mario Chalmers made a declaration. 

    He wanted teammates to "tone it down."

    For the previous two seasons, it seemed like everyone—from LeBron James to Dwyane Wade and even the usually mild-mannered Chris Bosh—had undressed Chalmers publicly a time or two or 200, for one mistake or another.

    It got so bad during the 2012 NBA Finals that it became at least a secondary storyline for the national NBA media.

    Imagine if Chalmers hadn't played reasonably well in that series, averaging 10.4 points on 44.2 percent shooting.

    When told of Chalmers's plea, back in October: James laughed:

    If he’s grown up in the last year, then it will tone down. It’s that simple. If he doesn’t want that type of reaction from me or—

    James paused, then continued:

    Yeah, I could do a better job of that as well. I understand. I could do a better job of that. But I don’t do it just to do it. He messes up sometimes. But he comes through for me, though.

    This season, Chalmers' teammates have come down on him a bit less often, at least on the court. He is still the butt of jokes, as when Dwyane Wade received a perfect 60-foot lob from Norris Cole against the Toronto Raptors, and quipped, "I've been trying to get Mario to throw them like that." 

    It takes a certain type of personality to take everything that teammates can dish out, remain confident and yet still laugh at oneself. If you saw Chalmers in a Super Mario costume during the Heat's "Harlem Shake" video, you know he can do the latter. 

2. He's Got Guts

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    Confidence can come with a downside.

    Sometimes, Mario Chalmers still tries to do too much—whether with a drive to the basket or a dart into the passing lane.

    But there's one plus that, for Chalmers, is also par for the course. 

     "He is not afraid," Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.

    He's not afraid of make or miss, win or lose, hero or goat. 

    "Just always, since being a little kid, I've always dreamed about taking big shots in big moments, just being that person," Chalmers said. "So far it's worked out for me." 

    It has done so  at three levels, in Bartlett High School in Alaska, in college at Kansas University—where he hit the game-tying shot of the 2008 national championship game—and in the pros. 

    He has had his jersey retired at the first two places, and when asked about the Heat back in February, he smiled: “Yeah, I got to figure out a way."

    Right now, that might still seem a long shot.

    But if he keeps making long shots when it counts, as he did during each of the past two postseasons, and as he did in a hyped regular-season game against Indiana on March 11, he might get the last laugh.  

1. The Stroke Is Pure

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    The Miami Heat drafted Mario Chalmers as a project.

    They didn't see elite, traditional point guard skills, someone who could consistently beat defenders with his first step, finish cleverly at the rim or deliver slick passes in tight spaces. 

    They saw a latter-day version of the former Chicago Bulls guard B.J. Armstrong, someone who could play well off a superstar—the sort of superstar they had in Dwyane Wade. 

    For Chalmers to fulfill their vision, however, he had to become a better long-range, spot-up shooter than he had been at Kansas University.

    Chalmers spent practice after practice getting personal instruction from either head coach Erik Spoelstra or video coordinator Dan Craig. 

    That pet project has paid off.

    Chalmers, after shooting .367, .318 and .359 from behind the arc during his first three seasons, raised that to .388 last season, even earning a spot in the NBA All-Star Three-Point Shootout.

    And while he wasn't invited to that competition this February, even after making 10 from deep against Sacramento on January 12, he has hit shots at a blistering rate since the break.

    Now he's at 41.3 percent, sneaking into the top 20 in the league.

    Does all the attention on Wade and LeBron James help him get open?

    Sure.

    Does his consistency from outside relieve some pressure on them?

    That, too.